Does the perfect birth exist?

I never dreamed of having a “perfect” birthing experience – I didn’t come up with a birthing plan, I never sat around imagining what it was going to be like.

I pushed it out of my mind because I knew that a) eventually it had to happen one way or another and that b) whoever’s in the delivery room with me (nurses, doctors) will know a lot more about giving birth than me, so they’ll be able to advise me on what to do if needed, not the other way around. Also, giving birth to Molly was relatively straightforward and confirmed my idea that the best way to think about giving birth was just letting nature do its thing. I thought I would just be happy to hold my healthy baby, regardless of how he arrived on Earth.

That’s why the emotions I felt after giving birth to our (spoiler alert: healthy and perfect) baby boy on the first day of the year – sadness, disappointment, grieving – took me by surprise. It took me almost three weeks to work through what I was feeling and to get my mind to stop rewinding what happened that night.

And what happened was a perfect birthing experience turned completely unexpectedly into the scariest birthing experience before I could even grasp what was going on.

Long story short, after only 45 minutes of painful contractions (and a couple of hours of not very painful ones), we were in the hospital and in a great mood. I was already 9 centimeters dilated, “our” midwife (who we had known for two years, liked and trusted) broke my water, I started to push, thinking how great this was and how it was going to be the quickest birth ever and I was going to be the boss of births. Birthing queen. OK, I was also in a huge amount of pain and freaking out, completely forgetting to breathe properly, but I knew this was the last stage, the shortest one and everything was going to be over soon. And then I heard the midwife shout “Shit! The umbilical cord!” as she pushed the emergency button.

In a second, there were six people around me. I was told they had to perform a C-section right away, one of the doctors literally pushed the baby back inside me and had her fist up there while they were wheeling me into the surgery. Jay had to stay where he was and neither of us knew what was going on. Honestly, I was relieved at that point because I knew I was going to be knocked out. I was too scared to stay awake for whatever was about to happen.

What actually happened was the umbilical cord prolapse. Not to scare anyone, it happens so rarely that our midwife only knew about it in theory and hasn’t experienced it once in eight years of working at the hospital – according to Wikipedia, it happens in 1% of the cases. I guess we have to consider ourselves special. It basically means that the umbilical cord comes out before the baby (in our case it probably happened because I had a lot of amniotic fluid and the baby’s head wasn’t completely engaged yet). If the woman continues to push the baby out, the pressure on the cord from the baby stops the oxygen flow which can cause brain damage. Or worse.

Surviving the next couple of days is a separate topic and deserve its own blog post (or doesn’t).

Fast forward to me being home and, in addition to my hormones going crazy anyway, having constant flashbacks to that night. The picture that kept coming back to me was Jay’s smiling face as he changed my shirt and dressed me in my new pajamas with buttons which I bought specially for the occasion. That was right after we found out I was 9 centimeters dilated and right before the midwife broke my waters. It was a perfect moment in which I was completely connected to my wonderful husband and felt a strong sense of love for him, for our daughter and for our son who we were about to meet. I woke up an hour later with all the buttons on my new shirt ripped because no one had time to fiddle with them to attach me to all different sorts of machines.

It wasn’t the fact that I needed a C-section that made me feel bad, it was the sudden change from happy and excited to horrified and alone that left me in a state of shock. It left me with a feeling of having been robbed of the “perfect birthing experience” even though I didn’t have an idea of one to start with. Three weeks later I threw away the ripped shirt and finally managed to vocalise all the sadness I felt when I thought back to us being happy in that little room. It felt cathartic – I talked at lengths about it with Jay, we cried a lot and came out of it “renewed and restored”.

In the end, I guess every birth that ends with a healthy and happy baby should be considered a perfect birthing experience.
With some, it just takes longer for that feeling to sink in…

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